Today’s world of instant gratification has quickly translated into fantasy football. “What have you done for me lately” has always been a go-to phrase in football, but we preach patience with young players in dynasty. Last year’s rookie class spoiled us, though. Kyler Murray won Rookie of the Year, Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders were right behind Murray, and there was a slew of fantasy-relevant rookie receivers last year. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Many players don’t “break out” until their second, third, sometimes even fourth year in the NFL. We can certainly say this about wide receivers who have been pegged for a cliché “third-year breakout.” Many have already given up on Parris Campbell despite being selected in the second round last year and having injuries slow down his transition. His price has never been lower, and he’s the next player we’ll talk about to stand-out among his peers in this year’s training camp. Check out the first article in this series on Olabisi Johnson.
Campbell played his college career at THE Ohio State, outperforming Terry McLaurin and K.J. Hill in his senior season. The go-to weapon for Dwayne Haskins in 2018, Parris finished with 90 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also showed off the ability to return kicks and was an exciting playmaker in all facets of the game. He even showed off some rushing ability on sweeps. One of Parris’s best aspects was his ability to get yards after the catch and break off big plays once the ball was in his hands. In 2018, he led the Big 10 in receiving touchdowns and in yards per kick return.
Ohio State ended the 2018 season as the #3 team, with only one loss and the 8th best college offense. Campbell looked to be one of the top receiving prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.
D.K. Metcalf blew up the combine and garnered the focus of the media and football fans. Despite Metcalf’s gaudy numbers and photos, Campbell quite possibly was the best athlete at the combine and in the draft. Campbell came in at 6’0” and 205lbs, solid numbers for a receiver. While the fastest receivers in the game are quite often 5’ 10” and below, Campbell (at six-foot, mind you) ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine. That speed put him in the 97th percentile for speed and burst score, which considers a player’s size.
Billed as an electric playmaker in college, Campbell’s combine solidified that profile. Nearly guaranteeing that he would be selected sometime in Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The Indianapolis Colts would select Campbell in the second round. He would be projected to slot right in as the WR2 on the team behind T.Y. Hilton.
The preseason wouldn’t be kind to Campbell or the Colts. Campbell would deal with a hamstring injury that kept him on the sideline, and Andrew Luck would retire in the middle of a preseason matchup. Between the missed time in camp and the surprising upheaval of the offense, Campbell was not able to be fully prepared for the season.
Healthy and able to play Week 1, Campbell immediately showed a lack of chemistry with new starter Jacoby Brissett. Parris only saw five targets through the first three weeks, but in Week 4, he looked like the prospect we had expected. Against the Titans, Campbell had five receptions and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he would get hit with the injury bug again and miss the next two games. He would make an appearance in Week 8 & 9, catching five passes in the latter game, but would once again struggle with injuries and miss four more games. He would play once more in the season, during Week 14, catching another five passes.
Despite only playing in seven games, Campbell showed promise in his rookie year. He averaged over five targets in games where he could play at least 30% of the snaps. He also was able to show flashes of his playmaking ability, averaging 5.61 YAC/R, which ranked him ahead of other 2019 rookie WRs such as Diontae Johnson and Marquise Brown.
The Indianapolis Colts decided that Jacoby Brissett was not the quarterback to led the team into the playoffs, so they made a run in the free agent market and were able to sign Phillip Rivers to a one-year $25mm deal. In the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Colts also selected Michael Pittman Jr., the team’s first pick, giving Campbell some more competition at the wideout position.
While Pittman Jr. is very talented and will bring competition for targets, he likely doesn’t affect Campbell’s outlook too much as they both play a different position. Pittman will be playing outside as the X receiver in the offense, while Campbell will thrive as the offense’s slot receiver. And as the slot receiver, he’ll have every chance to make an impact in this new offense. Phillip Rivers has been known as a quarterback who often relies on quick short passes to his slot receiver, Keenan Allen in San Diego/LA. That fit’s Campbell’s profile perfectly with his ability to take those passes and find space.
In training camp, Campbell has impressed Phillip Rivers, the coaching staff, and the media. His speed and route running across the middle of the field have blended well in practices with Phillip Rivers, and rumor has it that Campbell could rival Hilton for the team’s most targets. Meanwhile, Pittman Jr. is still transitioning into the NFL and will likely take a good part of the season to find his footing among NFL defenders.
Parris Campbell is one of the best values in fantasy football now, in both dynasty and redraft. A second-rounder with one of the best athletic profiles since the combine started and now in a much better situation with a healthy offseason and a veteran quarterback. Campbell’s ceiling is nearly unlimited, and the Colts have created a future worth investing in. Hilton may be nearing the end of his time in Indy, but Pittman and Campbell could have a great future together. Pittman’s physical play style complements Campbell’s speed. Making an exciting 1-2 punch in the passing game. While Rivers’ likely won’t be around much longer, Chris Ballard is one of the better GMs in the league and should do well to retool the offense, whether through free agency again or through the draft.
Is it not yet time to give up on Parris Campbell. Despite all the arrows pointing up for him, most managers are willing to break ties without holding out for too much in return. I would expect Campbell to start the season as the WR2 on the Colts. With that opportunity, his upside could be anywhere from a solid flex start up to a top-20 receiver some weeks. Whether you believe Campbell holds Pittman off as the second option in the passing game shouldn’t matter. Campbell’s value is nearly guaranteed to increase once the season starts, making him a great investment as a player to flip or keep. A low-risk, high reward play this season, Campbell should be on your shopping list in every single dynasty league.